Tufts Hosts NESCAC Women’s Basketball Finals

Top-seeded Jumbos are 24–1 going into the weekend matchups

women's basketball team celebrates a win

Amherst College and Bowdoin College have been the dominant teams in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) women’s basketball since 2001, when the league established a conference tournament. Tufts wants to rewrite history this weekend when it hosts the conference semifinals and final at Cousens Gym Saturday and Sunday, March 1–2.

Amherst (five league titles) and Bowdoin (eight league titles) have won all 13 NESCAC women’s basketball championships. One or the other has hosted 12 of the previous 13 “Final Four” weekends. Bates College, a four-time NESCAC runner-up, interrupted that streak in 2008. This year, Tufts is the second team to do so.

Top seed Tufts (24–1) will host fourth seed Trinity (16–8) in the first semifinal on Saturday at 2 p.m. Second seed Amherst (23–2) will face third seed Bowdoin (21–4) in the second semifinal on Saturday at 4 p.m. The winners will play for the conference title on Sunday at noon.

Tufts has had a great deal of success under head coach Carla Berube, now in her 12th season. This year’s team has several players who competed in back-to-back NCAA Sweet 16s in 2012 and 2013. However, the program reached a new milestone this season by earning the right to host the conference championship weekend.

Last year, Tufts received the number one seed for the NESCAC championship through a tie-breaker. They were upset in the quarterfinals by Bowdoin, though, losing their chance to host the semifinals and final. This year, the Jumbos posted a perfect conference season record (10–0) and took care of business last week in the quarterfinals against Wesleyan, 74–46.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment to be hosting the NESCAC tournament this year,” senior tri-captain Ali Rocchi says. “This conference is one of the toughest in the country, and to come away with an undefeated record in the regular season says a lot about our program and how much we’ve grown over the years. It’ll be great to have the opportunity to play in our gym with the stands packed with our faithful fans.”

In addition to hosting for the first time, the Jumbos will also be playing to capture their first conference title. They have advanced to the finals three times, losing in 2008 and 2012 to Amherst and in 2007 to Bowdoin.

“We have always stressed stifling, lock-down defense as the key to any win this season, and this weekend will be no different,” says senior tri-captain Caitlin McClure. “We will be facing a tough Trinity team in the semifinal, and we will need to put up a high-energy defensive effort to get the win. When we are consistently disrupting their offense—getting deflections, rebounds and steals—is when we are at our best on the offensive end, making plays for each other and converting open-shot opportunities.”

Tufts ranks first in NESCAC for scoring defense, allowing 49.2 points per game. Offensively, they are third, scoring 68 points per contest. That equates to a plus 18.8 scoring margin, which is tops in the league. They also take care of the ball better than anyone else in NESCAC, with a  plus 6.44 turnover margin.

The Jumbo defense is aided by 6-foot-2-inch junior center Hayley Kanner’s presence in the paint, where she has blocked a league-high 2.6 shots per game. On offense, the team has two of the most consistent scorers: junior Hannah Foley is number one in NESCAC with a .429 three-point percentage, and first-year Michela North leads the league with a .600 field goal mark (78/130).

The Jumbo women play well at home, with a remarkable 85–10 record at Cousens Gym since the 2006–07 season. This weekend they hope to parlay some home cooking with solid fundamentals to add two more wins to that mark.

“I think this is an amazing opportunity for our team to play some really competitive basketball at home,” senior tri-captain Liz Moynihan says. “It will take all of us coming together as a team and playing our Tufts basketball for 40 minutes. When we play for each other and with each other, we are a very good team.”

Tickets for each day will be $5 for adults and $2 for students. Streaming video will be available for all three games through the Northeast Sports Network (NSN) at http://nsnsports.net/NESCAC. Live statistics will also be available at http://livestats.prestosports.com/tufts.

Tufts Sports Information Director Paul Sweeney can be reached at paul.sweeney@tufts.edu.

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